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Growing winter vegetables in Melbourne

Published 26 May 2022
  • Sustainability

The beginning of the cooler weather doesn’t mean saying goodbye to your veggie patch! Autumn is the perfect time to sow those vegetable and herb seeds that thrive in cooler conditions.

Choosing the right vegetables for the season is crucial to having a healthy, sustainable garden, with plenty of produce all year round. Read our tips on the best options to plant out your garden with this winter.

Vegetables and herbs that will grow successfully during winter include:

  • Garlic
  • Spring Onions
  • Carrots
  • Beetroot
  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli
  • Spinach
  • Potatoes
  • Kale
  • Leek
  • Onion
  • Brussel Sprouts

Leafy greens such as spinach, silverbeet and mustard greens are also great options for planting during the winter.

When is the best time to plant out my winter garden?

It is recommended to get planting underway once the Autumn weather turns crisp but not chilly. This is generally between March and April.

What kind of soil do winter veggies like?

Winter veggies require rich and nourishing soil to keep them thriving through the cooler months. If your soil needs replenishing and you don’t want to replace the whole lot, simply add animal manures (whether it be from horses, chickens, rabbits, sheep) along with plenty of compost and rake it through lightly. This will eventually break down and supply the soil (and therefore the food) with rich nutrients that are beneficial for both you and the veggies.

What about herbs?

Many hardy herbs thrive throughout the cooler months, but there are some herbs that stand out when it comes to winter growth.

Herbs that thrive in winter include:

  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
  • Sage
  • Mint
  • Coriander
  • Curry leaf
  • Basil
  • Oregano
  • Parsley

Storage and cooking ideas to reduce food waste

If you find you have an excess of any of the above winter vegetables following a successful harvest, there are plenty of ways to store and get the most out of your produce to reduce food waste. The best thing to do of course, is to share your home-grown vegetables and herbs with families and friends. If you still have some left over, here’s a few ideas to use up and store your winter harvest.

  • Leek tops - Usually we only use the pale, yellow stem of the leek, however the dark green, woody tops of a leek can be used too. Instead of putting these straight into your compost, try adding them into a broth or stock.
  • Broccoli stalks - The broccoli florets tend to be the go to in cooking, but the broccoli stalks can still be eaten. Keep the stalk attached when cooking your florets. Or, peel the outer shell of the stalk, then slice or dice the stalk for use in a stir fry, soup base, fried rice or even in a salad.
  • Beetroot - use beetroot leaves like you would spinach and add to a leafy green salad. Beetroot can freeze for up to one year, just cook, remove the skin and slice or dice them before storing. If you have any wilted beetroots, you can restore them by soaking them in a jar of cold water before use.
  • Onions and potatoes - Store your onions and potatoes in a cool, dark place. Keep them away from other vegetables and each other. If your onions or potatoes begin to sprout, try replanting them in your garden. For potatoes, dig some trenches about 8 inches deep. Space out your sprouted potatoes every 12 inches, with the ‘eye’ facing upwards. Cover with soil and wait. For onions that have sprouted, cut away the outer part of the onion until you have the green sprout. Remove any ‘layers’ to reveal individual plants. Separate these and plant root down directly into your garden bed.
  • Herbs - Herbs like rosemary, thyme and oregano are great for drying. Tie a bunch together, hang upside in a cool place. Once dried, store and use like you would any store-bought herb. Excess mint can be used to make mint tea - you can steep fresh leaves in hot water or line the leaves on a baking tray and dry in the oven on low heat. You can also freeze your herbs in a number of ways. Lie your herbs flat on a tray and place in the freezer to dry out. Once frozen, store in a container in the freezer. You can also place cut up herbs into a silicone ice cube tray and completely cover with water, olive oil, coconut oil or ghee. Just think about what you might use these herbs for in future before choosing your oil. Once frozen, pop out of the tray and store in a labelled container. You could also mix different herbs together. Now you’ll have a year-long supply of herbs to add flavour to any dish!
  • Spring onions - when harvesting spring onions, don’t pull the roots out of the ground. Simply cut the spring onions towards the base of the plant, as you need them, and the spring onion left in the soil will continue to grow.
  • Kale stems - Kale stems can be frozen (or used fresh) for use in a bone broth or stock. You could also try making a kale stem pesto to save these from being wasted in your rubbish bin or compost bin.

Visit the Sustainability Victoria website for more tips and ideas to reduce food waste, store food correctly and cooking with leftovers.

Compost your scraps

If you do have any unavoidable food waste, you can add these to a compost bin, worm farm or Bokashi bin. Use your scraps to create compost, which can then go back onto your garden beds to help your next crop grow! Composting has many benefits for you and your garden, such as:

  • creating a rich fertiliser for your garden
  • adding important minerals, nutrients, bacteria and micro-organisms to soil 
  • increasing the water retention of soil 

If you’re not already composting your food waste at home, you can purchase a discounted system via Compost Revolution. Visit our discount compost systems webpage for more information.

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